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A story entitled Dear Chris: in the Nov. 26 issue of SI detailed the correspondence between college basketball coaches and coveted high school players. The focus of the piece, written by Bill Brubaker, was on Chris Washburn, a 6'11" center who elected to go to North Carolina State after receiving 278 letters, postcards and Mailgrams from the Wolfpack coaching staff. In one letter to Washburn, coach Jim Valvano wrote, "I've never met someone who enjoys life and lives it to the fullest as much as you do." Tom Abatemarco, Valvano's assistant, wrote Washburn's mother, saying, "Chris is very important to us as a player and a person."
On Dec. 21 Washburn was arrested and charged with second-degree burglary in connection with the alleged theft of stereo equipment from the dormitory room of a Wolfpack football player. Washburn was released on $1,000 bond, and a hearing on the charge is scheduled for Jan. 8. This was not the freshman's first brush with the law at N.C. State. On Sept. 19 he was convicted of assaulting a female student in a dormitory—he slapped her. For that misdemeanor he was fined $25 plus court costs, and a 30-day sentence was suspended. In October, while State was on tour in Greece, Washburn was reportedly apprehended for shoplifting. Valvano has declined comment on that accusation.
Valvano reacted to Washburn's burglary arrest by dismissing him from the team for the rest of the year. The coach later said he would review Washburn's case after the court hearing. The unnamed football player will probably drop the charge, which could carry a sentence of 14 years in prison, although the district attorney in Raleigh may still prosecute.
Valvano told SI's Greg Kelly, "It is very sad. I thought Chris was making good progress in all areas at State. But now all that I'm concerned about is helping him. After I take appropriate action I want him to know we're here to help him. I want to be part of the success story of Chris Washburn. But it's his decision now. I still feel he's not a 'bad kid.' I think he's immature and troubled and has shown bad judgment. We have to see if he can turn it around."
On the one hand, Valvano and N.C. State have a responsibility to Washburn. "We love you and you know we'll take care of Chris his four years here," two of the Wolfpack coaches once wrote his mother. "He has two friends forever." On the other hand, Washburn already has three strikes against him, and one wonders if State would put up with such aberrant behavior from a student without such extraordinary talent. Says Valvano, "I think he needs professional help. And if those people tell me he'd be better off with a goal to shoot for [basketball], then I'll have to consider that."
Valvano has a decision to make. Washburn has a lesson to learn. "Maybe this will just be an unhappy chapter in his life story," says Valvano. "He can still write the ending."
THE DIPLOMA BOWL
Postseason bowl games aside, the true champions of college football for 1984 were—surprise—Notre Dame and Duke. That notion may be hard to swallow, considering that the Fighting Irish finished at 7-5 after losing to SMU in the Aloha Bowl and that the Blue Devils were a miserable 2-9 on the field. But the two schools did win the College Football Association's annual Academic Achievement Award, presented at last week's Liberty Bowl, for graduating the highest percentage of their football players.
The 63-member CFA bases this honor on the percentage of scholarship players recruited in 1978-79 who graduated within five years, with no exceptions made for those who withdrew from school for any reason. Notre Dame gave scholarships to 28 players who started classes in 1979, and 27 of them (96.4%) graduated. Duke gave degrees to 22 of its 23 recruits (95.6%) from that year. To put those impressive stats in perspective, only two other institutions in the CFA, Virginia and Wyoming, had rates of 75% or better. The average rate for all recruits was only 46.8%.